The year 2020 transformed what we expected into something else and no one knows for certain what the New Year will bring. Yet Christmas never changes because the events of Christmas and Calvary, while historically past, form a circle of promise both made and kept.
The circle of joy to sorrow to joy is the journey from Crib to Cross and back again.
Christmas to Calvary
Salvation comes when you receive the gift and claim it as your own. Yet this precious pearl isn’t something to reserve for special days, but something to wear until it is worn to perfection.
I combined two familiar hymns to form a circle from Manger to the Cross.
Joy to the world My sin, my sin, my Savior The Lord is Come How sad on Thee they fall Let earth receive her King.
There is joy at the birth and sorrow at the death, but is there also sorrow at the birth and joy at the death? The two are inextricably entwined because neither has meaning or power without the other.
Unused Gifts Lose Their Power
Christmas makes peace between a holy God and sinful man possible. The joy of the Savior’s birth is tempered by the knowledge of our sinful nature. We can stand at the foot of the Cross, receive the gift, then circle back to tearful praise because we have peace with God.
With this great Gift, transformation into the nature of Jesus and the assurance of eternity in His presence becomes possible.
Yet, most people open the gift, show it to everyone, celebrate, then tuck it away without acting on it. The potential of even the most powerful gift dies unless it is used and cared for.
The Circle of Transformation
Asking if there is forgiveness for deliberate sin always sparks conversation. The usual answer is a solid, “Of course there is.” Let’s think about that for a moment. What if the person knew that what they were about to do was a sin, but chose to do it anyway?
“But, everyone sins.”
True, but that’s a different conversation.
The question of deliberate sin is an arrow on its way to a bullseye.
Consider the time, energy, passion, and financial investment most make in Christmas. Preparations take weeks, storage boxes are opened, decor unpacked, neighborhoods twinkle at dusk with lighted displays, and the world is transformed by the sights and sounds of Christmas.
People spend great amounts of time and resources in Bethlehem. Geographically, Golgatha is just six miles away, where the promise of Christmas is fulfilled. And yet, the celebration of the Cross and resurrection is reserved, household decor is unaffected, and the world remains the same.
From the Manger to the Cross
Choosing to sin with foresight is to stand at the foot of a Roman cross, a mangled crucified Christ struggling to see you through swollen eyes. Blood traces its way over cheeks bones and chin from wounds made by jagged thorns until it collects in a crimson pool at your feet.
He hangs there for you. He was born to die for you. Your eyes meet. Jesus loves you.
This is the Child of the Manger.
Is the desire to sin so great that you can gaze at Jesus’s shredded flesh and not be moved? Can you stand in a pool of blood at the foot of the Cross from which the Babe of Bethlehem hangs and walk away to willfully sin?
“Thank you, Jesus, but I have other plans.”
The Gift is Transformation
How can Christians gaze at the crucified Christ and believe that deliberate sin is the norm? Adulterous spouses twist wedding vows to shift the blame for strife onto the other because, they insist, they promised to love me “for better or worse.”
For many, that’s the promise of grace preached from their pulpit of choice. It doesn’t matter what I do, God has to love me.
It didn’t work for the Israelites and it doesn’t work that way today.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” — Hebrews 10:26
The Gift of Forgiveness and Transformation
Remorse is self-centered. It says, “I got caught, and I hate knowing that I have black spots in my character.
Repentance is Christ-centered. It says, “My heart is ripped in two because I hurt my Lord whom I dearly love. Seeing the cost is almost more than I can bear.”
Jesus said, “If you love Me, obey My commandments.” — John 14:15
Christmas made Calvary possible. You can lay down your burden of guilt because God kept His promise. The Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths died naked on a Roman tree for you.
Repentance is the wrapping around the gift of forgiveness and the gift of peace. This is the blessing and miracle of Christmas.
Rejoice! Accept the Gift of Peace and Joy
Christmas and Calvary both stand on the purpose of God. The crucified life is one that puts on the character and spirit of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Believing that deliberate sin is optional denies God’s transformative power.
Rejoice at the manger, leave your burden of sin at the Cross where it belongs, then live in the joy and peace Christmas makes possible.
The circle is complete. Jesus died for you. Will you live for Him? Put on the gift.
Joy to the World was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and first appeared as “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom” in 1719 as his version of Psalms 98:4-9.
My Sin, My Sin, My Savior is by John Samuel Monsell (1811-1875), the son of the archdeacon of Londonderry, Ireland. John graduated from Trinity College in Dublin and became a minister in 1834.
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